Baltimore to implement second year of summer youth curfew enforcement, additional teen events

Baltimore City officials presented a plan Thursday to enforce a youth curfew for the second summer.

Mayor Brandon Scott last year began strictly enforcing the long-standing weekend curfew in response to an alarming rise of youth shootings. As the school year winds down, the city’s weeklong curfew will start Memorial Day and run until Labor Day.

Curfew starts at 9 p.m. for teens under 14. Teens ages 14 to 16 have until 11 p.m. The curfew ends at 6 a.m.

“Curfew has always been on the books in Baltimore,” Scott said at a Thursday news conference. “Last [year], we took significant steps to change our approach based on this type of engagement and focus.”

There are exceptions to the curfew, such as minors who are accompanied by parents or traveling for school and work.

Teams of city staff will work in unspecified zones from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and holiday Sundays. A new rapid-response team will be on call to handle unplanned gatherings throughout the week.

Officials said city staff will seek to help young people get home or to a safe place if they’re out after curfew. They also want to minimize young people’s interactions with law enforcement.

“We believe that this strategy will avoid criminalizing young people for simply being Black and outside,” Scott said. He emphasized that young people who break the law will be held accountable.

The teams are staffed by the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, the Mayor’s Office of African American Male Engagement, social workers, and conflict-resolution nonprofits We Our Us and the PEACE Team.

Those who don’t have a place to go during curfew hours will be brought to the Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center, which will act as a “youth connection center.” The center was not widely used last year.

Several city agencies are preparing to add more summer events, such as community block parties, pool parties, and late-night hours at recreation centers, to keep children and teens positively engaged.

The recreation and parks department will also host sports tournaments, midnight basketball games and concerts.

At the news conference, Sonja Santelises, CEO of the Baltimore City Public School System, described the citywide collaboration on summer youth programs as unique to Baltimore. Sixty city schools are offering summer programs, including a full-week physical education camp, a music program and a cooking camp.

Last summer, city staff focused monitoring efforts on the Inner Harbor, Fells Point and Federal Hill after public spaces became crime scenes after high-profile shootings. But the increased scrutiny made some teens feel unwelcome in the city they live in.

Scott said he wouldn’t disclose the areas in which curfew will be monitored this summer.

The scarcity of safe, public spaces for young people to go was underscored by a July mass shooting in South Baltimore’s Brooklyn neighborhood. The majority of the 30 victims were teens.

Stefanie Mavronis, the director of MONSE, said the agency will record a “nontraditional curfew strategy” in real time. Last summer, volunteers interacted with 650 children and teens during curfew hours, and thousands of people participated in the recreation and parks department’s summer events.

The agency also touted an 83% decrease in youth homicides from Memorial Day to Labor Day compared with the previous summer. There were nine more youth gunshot injuries than in the previous year, which was attributed to the Brooklyn shooting.